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  • thomasmmoran

Famous For Fifteen

Updated: May 2, 2023

People playing craps
Oh, craps.

The UAF Student Drama Association has an annual contest called "Famous for Fifteen," where they do readings of short plays. I think they basically use as a way to get younger/noncommitted students on stage as part of a staged reading, which is of course the lowest pressure of all theatrical obligations. The upside is that it provides an opportunity for local playwrights to throw something out there and hear it read before a crowd. So I've tried to take advantage of it.

The play I submitted, "Downtown Odds," is a re-imagining of an idea that was bouncing around my head for a while: playing cutthroat Scrabble against your father's mail-order bride. Don't know where the notion came from, but it seemed rife with both dramatic and comedic possibilities, until I actually tried to write it. Couldn't get anywhere. Here's the problem with Scrabble as a motif: either the words the characters make are random, in which case the audience is left trying to figure out whether they have any hidden meaning, or they're not random, in which case you've inadvertently introduced some sort of higher power/order/force into the play, which I preferred to avoid, at least in this piece.

So I switched things up; as I'd just returned from a (first-ever!) trip to Vegas, I picked a new milieu: the craps table. This proved a challenge as I've never played it before and it's a pretty damn complicated game. I still haven't played it, I just downloaded enough tutorials on the internet to get the basics down well enough to fake it. I mean, I hope. On the plus side, next chance I get I'm definitely jumping in a game.

In another twist, I switched up the parental character: now it's the gay man who's about to marry your dad, who's recently come out. What I like about the piece is that it seems like it's about homophobia, until it turns out that isn't what's going on at all. Hopefully it works; my previous attempts at writing gay characters have come across as, I think, inauthentic. But I'm happy at least with the setting, the sequence of events, and the fact that I can include all sorts of lingo to spice it up (including the title, which refers to the fact that downtown Vegas casinos tend to give more favorable odds on craps than do ones on the Strip.) It still probably needs some emotional modulation, but you know, it's all a process. Just excited to get it down on paper and see what comes of it.

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